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Chinese Medicine for IBS

Traditional Chinese Medicine for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS, is a truly misunderstood disorder. IBS disturbs the large intestine and can have such unwelcome symptoms as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. Western medicine does not confirm an exact cause of IBS but acknowledges that intestinal muscle contractions, stress, gut microbiome changes, and irregularity in the gut microbiome may play a role. Estimates state that about 10-20% of people in the UK may have IBS.

Chinese Medicine for IBS

Unlike with Western medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) seeks to address the root cause of IBS rather than simply just provide relief from its many symptoms. In TCM, common causes of IBS include spleen deficiency, liver disharmony , stomach heat, and stress.

“ In Chinese Medicine, IBS is known as Liver invading the Spleen”

Spleen Deficiency : When there is deficiency in the spleen, or it is not properly balanced, it struggles to perform the function of mobilizing both food and liquids. This will lead to the malabsorption of essential nutrients and poor overall health. If the spleen is not able to move liquids, the result is fluid accumulation that will lead to dampness and bloating.

Liver: Similar to the spleen’s movement of food and fluids, the liver’s role is to make sure that everything in the body is flowing normally including Qi flow. When there is an imbalance in the Liver, problems in other organs such as spleen ( digestive system) can arise. When there is an increase in stress and anxiety without proper stress management techniques, the result may be liver Qi stagnation. Some common symptoms that are often associated with liver Qi stagnation include pain, diarrhoea, and a poor appetitive.

For IBS to take place, according to Chinese Medicine there needs to be an imbalance both in Liver and the Spleen.

Stomach heat: The stomach’s function is to take food in and to mobilise and send it along to both the spleen or small intestine.  Patients who experience stomach pain and constipation may be suffering from a condition known as stomach heat. The result can be pain in the upper portion of the abdomen.

Chinese Medicine for IBS

Stress: It is well documented that stress can trigger IBS. When experiencing psychological stress, IBS sufferers can experience sensitivity in their intestines which affect digestions. Stress is also a known cause of liver Qi stagnation. These all combine to weaken the digestion process which leads to an inability to properly digest food. When this happens, patients are left feeling heavy and bloated.

Natural IBS Treatment With Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture: The ancient practice of acupuncture has a centuries-long track record of success in treating many different ailments and is a great natural IBS treatment. It has even been shown to provide relief from the symptoms associated with IBS. Instead of relieving bloating by attempting to eliminate phlegm, acupuncture is used to strengthen Qi to allow phlegm to be dispersed. Acupuncture may also aid in reducing physiological stress which is a common cause of IBS. It helps to manage stress by bringing balance to both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Since the brain and intestines interact due to the neural transmitters that reside in the central and enteric nervous systems, both hormones and neurotransmitters play a role in regulating digestion. Electroacupuncture can bring relief to symptoms by increasing the number of neurons in the muscles of the gastrointestinal track.

Studies have shown that acupuncture treatment is just as effective as the prescription drug loperamide which shows that it is an effective drug-free option. A study out of the Clinical Medical College of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Rehabilitation at Guangzhou University in China treated 61 patients with IBS with acupuncture for three weeks. After treatment, 86% of the patients reported a reduction in diarrhoea, abdominal pain and abdominal distension. Chinese medicine for IBS resulted in a substantial amount of relief compared to the Western medicine group where only 64% of participants reported improvement in their IBS symptoms.

Moxibustion: Patients have also had success with using moxibustion to treat IBS. Moxibustion is a form of acupuncture that uses heat created from the burning of dried mugwort. This natural IBS treatment will help to regulate Qi and resolve stagnation while warming the body and dispelling coldness.  Learn how moxibustion can help with other digestive issues here.

Chinese Medicine for IBS

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Recommended Diet for IBS

Chinese medicine for IBS also recommends that patients avoid certain foods that may be contributing to their symptoms. Since coldness can lead to dampness and phlegm, those who are suffering from IBS will want to ensure they are avoiding cold foods. Cold foods, like raw veggies and fruits, will result in both dampness and phlegm because they can be difficult to digest. Too much energy is needed to digest cold foods because the body must work harder to bring cold foods up to body temperature.

Similar to cold foods, dairy products, such as cheeses and milk, will lead to dampness. This dampness often brings with it abdominal distention and bloating.

Instead, be sure to include plenty of warm, easily digestible foods. Warm foods, like bone broth and soup , are easily digested by the body and will help with Qi absorption. Soups containing barley, green beans, and herbs will improve digestion while restoring the spleen. Ensure that any lean cuts of organic meat in your diet are free of hormones and pesticides. Chicken, beef, and lamb are all great options that the body can easily digest.


Though there is still so much to learn about the causes of IBS, treatment must involve more than just masking its symptoms. Stress management is very important as poorly managed stress is a known trigger for IBS symptoms. Acupunctures is an effective natural IBS treatment that has few adverse side effects. It can help by both improving digestion and alleviating stress. It is also vital that IBS suffers make changes to their diet to reduce symptoms. Avoid cold foods that lead to dampness, phlegm, and bloating. Instead, choose warm foods such as soup that are easy to absorb. If you are looking for a drug-free relief from IBS, speak with a TCM practitioner about Chinese medicine for IBS.

For more information about how Chinese Medicine can help you with IBS, book your free consultation with our Chinese Medicine experts today

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our clinics website: GinSen where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.

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